The mountain town of Boquete is undoubtedly familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in living or buying a home in Panama.
It’s probably one of Panama’s best-known highland destinations. It’s been a destination for expats for decades. First, Swedes came to town. Three decades ago, they built the first hydro-electric power station on the town’s Caldera River. They built homes.
Word spread. North Americans followed the Swedes at the turn of this century. They found a natural paradise in Boquete: lush, pastoral landscapes and the comfortable climate that hovers between 60 F and 77 F year-round depending on how high up the mountain you live.
The natural lifestyle on offer is part of Boquete’s appeal. This highland town is in Panama’s breadbasket, where a lot of the country’s produce is produced. In this rural landscape, there are a lot of outdoor activities—hiking, hot springs, rafting, bird watching, and more. Everything an expat looking to slow down could want.
When the pioneers came, prices were still low. It was easy to bag a bargain in Boquete. But as more and more North Americans came, real estate prices started to rise. The town really started to develop. New cafes, restaurants, and cultural hubs sprang up.
By 2007, prices had shot through the roof. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo could set you back $200,000 or more.
Boquete is not the easiest market to buy well in. But there are pockets of opportunity if you’re willing to put the time, effort, and research in. It’s still possible to own for $200,000 or less—if you know what you’re doing.
The key to buying well is to find a distressed seller—someone who needs to get out quickly. When the property crash happened in the U.S. that trickled down to the Boquete real estate market. It is still feeling those effects. Every so often, you’ll encounter a seller who is motivated to sell for much less than 2007 prices. That’s where you can buy well.
In the past couple of years, I’ve spotted a few of these deals. It pays to have an eye on the market.
One I came across was a 1,900-square-foot home on a corner lot in one of Boquete’s most exclusive neighborhoods. The seller wanted out quickly—and was willing to sell for less to guarantee a quick sale. He was asking for $165,000. Before the economic crisis, he could easily have asked for (and got) $210,000.
That’s an example of the value you can avail of when a buyer wants out now. Undervalued estate goes quickly in Boquete. And, as things keep improving back in the U.S., the opportunities are fewer and fewer.
This is a market you need to pay close attention to bag a bargain. Having boots on the ground here is the best way to do that.
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